Who is he?
Hu Pang Chow is a member of the opposition party Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) Supporters Congress. Hu used to be a teacher and is a Christian of Chinese descent. PAS is Malaysia’s largest Islamic-based political party.
Why is he in the news?
PAS named Hu on April 13 as its parliamentary candidate for the Ayer Hitam constituency in the southern state of Johor for the May 5 parliamentary elections. He is the party’s first ever non-Muslim candidate. PAS took steps in 2010 to allow non-Muslims to become official members of and run for the party.
Hu will face Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong, who is also the chief of Malaysian Chinese Association’s youth wing. MCA is a member of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
What can we expect from him?
As a non-Muslim member of PAS, we can expect that he will work to strengthen the moderate and liberal wings of the party. His nomination is an effort by PAS to demonstrate its commitment to an inclusive Malaysian society, as reflected in its “PAS for All” motto, and an attempt by the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR), of which PAS is a member, to demonstrate that it rejects race-based policies. It is also an effort by the opposition, which has often been divided, to signal unity within its coalition. The ruling coalition often exploits PAS’ calls for implementing Islamic law in Malaysia to make the case that opposition unity would unravel if the group took power following the elections.
The ruling coalition cites Hu’s nomination as a desperate move by the opposition to win votes from ethnic Chinese, who makes up 35 percent of the population. Johor, where the ruling coalition currently controls 25 out 26 seats, will be one of the battleground states in the elections. PAS contested the Ayer Hitam seat with Muslim Malay candidates in 2004 and 2008, but lost both times to Wee. The election this time is expected to be very close.